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Why is this a federal case?

| 4 Comments
From WVEC, a TV station in southeast Virginia:

NEWPORT NEWS -- Federal prosecutors say they won't pursue the death penalty for three men accused in the murder of Hardee's employee Diane Green.

Anthony Lee Wainwright, Jr., Henry Lee Thadeus Stapleton and Michael Johnson Jr. were in U.S. District Court in Newport News Monday afternoon.

Trial for the three was set for January 10, 2011 in Newport News, said U.S. Attorney spokeswoman Margaret Jahn.

Green, 47, was shot to death in September 2007 during a robbery of the fast-food restaurant.

The three were indicted in January on federal charges of conspiracy to commit robbery, weapons violations, and murder with a firearm in reference to a crime of violence.

According to that indictment, Wainwright and Stapleton went into Hardee's restaurant with firearms intending to commit a robbery. After getting money from the register, Wainwright's do-rag slipped down and, worried he could be identified, he shot Green in the back of the head, killing her instantly, according to documents. Wainwright also wounded another employee who fled from the restaurant.

Wainwright and Stapleton ran off and were later picked up by Johnson near the Hardee's restaurant. The three returned to a hotel room, where they divided up the money.

Unless there is more to it than the story indicates, there is no reason for this to be a federal case. The locally elected DA, answerable to the people of this community, should be the one deciding whether to seek the death penalty, not Eric Holder.

4 Comments

Don't know for sure. I was an AUSA for that District (the Eastern District of Virginia), and the Newport News area is honeycombed with federal land, owing to the large naval base.

There may be concurrent jurisdiction, however, so Holder's decision might not be the last word. I promise you the Virginia state authorities are not hesitant to use the death penalty.

Bill: Could the federal hook be that this is a business (as are most) engaged in interstate commerce?

I seem to remember a prosecution like that in the past.

Legally, the federal hook is the gun charges. My beef is on policy, not legality. The feds should not be in this case, even though they can, unless there is more to it than appears in the news story.

According to your description of the crime only the shooter could get death in state court. So maybe the feds got the case because somebody wanted to try for death for all three.

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